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Survey Question
How well do you understand HF propagation? Comments please!
  Posted: Nov 21, 2017   (915 votes, 24 comments) by N2MG

  I'm blissfully unaware of how little I know.
  I realize how little I know but would like to learn more.
  I know some stuff, but realize I need to learn more. I can't really explain it well to anyone.
  I know a lot and can explain it to a 4th grader.
    (915 votes, 24 comments)

Survey Results
I'm blissfully unaware of how little I know. 5% (45)
I realize how little I know but would like to learn more. 17% (152)
I know some stuff, but realize I need to learn more. I can't really explain it well to anyone. 44% (402)
I know a lot and can explain it to a 4th grader. 31% (281)
Other 4% (35)

Survey Comments
HF propagation?
What propagation?

Posted by K1TWH on January 14, 2018

Knowing "a lot" is a relative measure. I
can and have explained to a 4th grader
types of propagation, what can be expected
from different bands, solar ionization of
atmosphere, the ionosphere's different
layers and so on. But to me, "knowing a
lot" would involve the ability to write
software to analyze propagation data,
improving algorithms for lowest and MUF,
or skillfully (not just by chance)
exploiting certain propagation phenomena
such as tropospheric ducts and sporadic e.

Posted by NEVBEN on January 11, 2018

To CQ or not to CQ...
I turn my transceiver on and tune around
until I hear a someone I can copy. The fun
is in actively trying...!

Posted by KG4CLD on January 6, 2018

I could explain it to a 4th grader ----- but
NOT my wife !

Posted by NA9E on January 5, 2018

I knew about sunspots and the 11 year
cycle back from I first got into ham
radio. Now with all the web sites
available you can find many that post the
solar flux and know what kind of day you
can have. I have also been keeping up with
Space Weather and have learned so much

I try to make a sked and net on 80m. The
range of guys on the sked are from 10 to
50 miles away and others over 1,000 miles.
Sometimes you can hear the distance ones
better than the ones you can talk with on
2m. Sometimes the band is long and we
cannot make our 80m statewide ARES net.

Interesting to know how activity on the
sun makes this possible or impossible.

Posted by N5EKF on January 4, 2018

Just Call CQ and be done with it!
Just like the local weather forecast, the
various space weather forecasts are sometimes
dead wrong.

But the "Real Time AccuWindow"(tm) view out
of your Living Room Picture Window? That one
is always, always right...

Just forget the Space Weather Forecast, and
call "CQ". If you get a reply, then the Space
Weather is Good. If it isn't, just turn the
volume down a bit, and warm up your soldering
iron for The Next Great Project.

As soon as you are melting your first solder
joint, propagation from Rare DX Land will
suddenly appear.

And by the time you put your soldering iron
back into its holder, the signals will fade
away again.

Propagation also suddenly increases when it's
time to cut the grass, or take out the
garbage. An especially good tropo opening
will also occur when you are "on call", and
called in to work.

All of the bands will be closed on your day
off. Or be VERY open, on your day off, when
your wife wants to go shopping.

Propagation also peaks when you have an
emergent plumbing repair job: And I'm pretty
sure that this is because that foot of water
in your basement increases your Ground Plane,
since it goes away after you've pumped all of
the water out.

Finally, in the summertime, your prearranged
Net or QSO always always occurs when a
lightning storm approaches. You might want to
skip it: OR you can approach this
"opportunity" with the same gusto as those
people who stand in line for Lottery Tickets,
while smoking cigarettes: You just never know
when playing the odds, if today just might be
your "Lucky" Day...

73 and All the Best!
DE W8LV Bill

Posted by W8LV on December 23, 2017

I was licensed in the early 70's and yes, to successfully pass the test given at an FCC Fild Office, you had to know propagation. I have taught the subject to new aboards to the USCG Communications Command (NMN, NMF, NMC, NOJ, etc....) in Chesapeake, VA.

Its less about forecasting and much more understanding what drives HF propagation.

Posted by K8HU on December 15, 2017

Magic of Propagation
I first became a propagation science
addict in the mid-1970s. I now write the
propagation and space weather columns in
CQ Magazine, The Spectrum Monitor, and
RadioUser (UK). I was the columnist on
this topic in Popular Communications and
CQ VHF, as well. I run and the Facebook
Space Weather and Radio Propagation page
at -
and all of this illustrates that I love
the science of propagation. It is the
study of the "magic" behind world-wide
radio communications.

Posted by NW7US on December 12, 2017

I passed my Ham license back in 1970's

To prepare for the exam, you had to know fluently
HF Propagation...

We had to read, comprehend, before taking the
exam..(Oh and apply through experimentation)

I owe this standard for my understanding of HF

Posted by NN2X on December 6, 2017

I don't know about a 4th Grader but I could teach an average-intelligence teenager wanting a General ticket. I've been using HF both as a hobby and professionally for about 40 years... and every day there's something else to learn. A lot of aspects of Ham Radio aren't really fascinating, but HF propagation is- IMHO.

Real radio bounces off the sky.

Posted by K7NG on December 4, 2017

you'll be surprised
I dial up and down the bands whenever I turn
on the radio. I am often pleasantly
surprised. Just don't look at the charts

Posted by W4IOA on November 29, 2017

As a new ham, I learned that a high A and
K index meant HF bands would be noisy and
bad. A high Sun Spot Number meant HF
bands, especially the higher ones, would
be good.

One day, I saw that the A and K indices
were high and the SSN was zero but when I
turned on my radio I heard signals from
Europe and Africa all over the band. It
was a big contest.

So my take-away is that contests create
propagation.The A, K and SSN are there to
analyze when not in a contest.

Posted by K5NOK on November 28, 2017

I think, there are normal ways, and abnormal
ways for propagation, that keeps it
interesting. That is why we have the
frequencies we do have, I would say.

Posted by K0IC on November 28, 2017

Do You really know Propagation?
I know enough to explain it to brand new Hams-- but, the way to understand this Science is to get on the Bands day and night and check by calling CQ -and- also doing a lot of listening-- and noting where indeed the Calls are coming from! '73, George AA7LX.

Posted by AA7LX on November 23, 2017

Although I have taught Radio Propagation at degree/ professional radio engineer/operator level. I am still learning every day, and will never know all about HF radio propagation.On line tools help.
My gut instinct after many years as a practicing radio engineer is that an ability to apply the theory into practice on the fly is even more important than understanding the theory.
And with so much misinformation out on the Web it is difficult for the novice ham to sift the facts from the junk. Classic is amount of non-fact on the Web about Short Range Skywave Communications dubbed in recent years NVIS. I will stop there as my XYL tells me it is my "hobby-horse".

Posted by EI0DB on November 23, 2017

Daily Propagation
I used the program Minimuf on my pc, and followed the shortwave stations as the bands above 5 MHz gradually opened up as the MUF rose during the day, and then closed down in the evening, just as the MUF predictions said they would.

Fairly accurate and it was fun to observe, and I learned a lot about how the ionosphere and the sun all interact with our radio signals, and what the Solar Flux means and where to find it.

Posted by VE3WGO on November 22, 2017

Since the entry-level license in the US went to
the VHF-and-above-centric (read: non-HF)
Technician, newly minted hams don't get exposed
to the nuances of HF propagation by force.
Many (most?) of them (even after upgrading)
barely operate VHF and far fewer venture to HF
where propagation issues reign supreme.

When one cut one's teeth on 40M and 15M CW, one
*had* to learn what it was all about.

Posted by N2MG on November 21, 2017

So propagation is like when I shoot skip
with my 2-meter HT? Sometimes I hear CB'ers
on 146.525 here on the west coast from the
east coast of the US and really love that
echo effect they use! Go propagation!

Posted by AF7EC on November 20, 2017

Currently reading "The Little Pistol's Guide
to HF Propagation", and once I finish that,
I'll go back to trying to understand ON4UN's
book on low-band propagation.

You can never learn enough about this topic.

Propagation can always surprise. Worked J5T
on 20m RTTY recently about 15 minutes before
local sunrise. Half an hour later, they were
inaudible on 20m.

Posted by AA4LR on November 20, 2017

Good heavens, accurate propagation prediction flummoxes
even those who are held in esteem as being experts in the

So how is a lowly little untrained "...propagation user" such
as yours truly expected to successfully & repeatedly navigate
that world with any sort of authority…?!

Posted by VE3CUI on November 20, 2017

Even more fun... that the two hemispheres of the sun are peaking at diverging times in the sunspot cycle. Will they wind up at opposite times eventually and cause a nearly flat "Maunder Minimum" sunspot cycle?

Posted by N3EG on November 19, 2017

There is a considerable amount of unfocused unorganized information making it difficult for anyone to draw an accurate conclusion regarding what has happened, why, and what to expect. All anyone can do is look at the Macro trends over the past few cycles clearly pointing to a period of much lower solar activity in the next cycle maybe two. Until there is growth in the magnetic size and complexity of the sunspots, the trend will continue down. This has happened in the past; it's just that no one is alive today to remember it. - Randy W7TJ

Posted by W7TJ on November 18, 2017

What hams used to know
I am glad to be knowledgeable about propagation theory. The hams of yesteryear used to know a fair amount of propagation theory, but I find that many newly minted hams know little to no theory in general. Brave new world we live in.

The good news is that if the new hams do not know the theory, the web has spotters and SFI numbers online.

Posted by KB6QXM on November 18, 2017

I know a little about it and use to follow the Propagation Forecasts from WWV way back when. I had an elementary Computer program that gave me some idea of what was suppose to happen. It is like any other realm in science, there is much to learn and it does not necessarily follow the rules.

In My Humble Opinion, Hams put too much emphasis one the forecasts and do not even try, if the prediction says the band is Bad or Closed, instead of getting on the air and sending out a CQ or two.

Posted by WA0TML on November 17, 2017

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